To arrive at this cookie-cutter bank website, a web development firm typically speaks with a scattering of bank executives to understand the corporate brand, audience and goals. Maybe the firm even interviews a few customers before whipping out an implementation schedule that includes benchmarks, user testing and a launch date. Voila! Its finished, youre told. In reality, you probably have half a website ? the technology half.

Most websites are built by techies ? programmers, designers, content and search engine optimization specialists who worry about up-time, load time, architecture and keywords. All are important, but websites built by techies are like faces without a soul.

Sure, developers certainly incorporate marketing tools in their processes ? customer profiles and user testing, for instance. However, that doesnt make it a marketing site any more than Tetris turns a gamer into an architect.

After surfing a dozen or so agency sites, I hardly saw any mention of marketing expertise. Rather, most firms touted the same requisite list of skills: web design, pay-per-click, SEO, Google Adwords, social media marketing and analytics. A few called themselves generalists, which Id say is an honest appraisal.

But its important to have a marketing-driven site. Banks are fast becoming transactional institutions. Customer relationships are being stretched to the breaking point as consumers increasingly turn to their smartphone instead of a personal banker for assistance. Since loyalty is out the window, an impersonal, functional website geared purely to facilitate transactions accelerates the relationship deterioration.

Instead, bank sites should reflect customer buying habits. A typical customer may have six to 12 interactions with a bank before opening a checking account or applying for a mortgage. When researching a product, he or she may make telephone inquiries or visits to the bank, peruse landing pages, check out fee schedules, or read a handful of Yelp reviews to gather information or seek assurance. Thats why an understanding of buyer behavior is essential. Until you recognize customer needs and behaviors, its virtually impossible to create a website that will make their journey easier and more rewarding. Few website designers give more than a passing nod to consumer behavior.
To determine if yours is a tech- or a marketing-driven site, answer these questions:

  • Are there more than cosmetic differences between you and your competitors website? If not, you have a generic site. Personalize your site to your community, mission, brand and audience.
  • Did your development agency map the journey that consumers took when opening an account or applying for a mortgage? To address questions or issues that pop up when opening an account, this information is necessary.
  • Have you gone beyond logos and colors to convey your brand? Use customer reviews, community photos, employee profiles and historical anecdotes to enrich your brand. Creating the right emotional digital environment plays a huge role in building trust and making visitors feel comfortable.
  • Does your strategic content plan achieve both short- and long-term goals?
  • Have you established landing pages for products and campaigns that allow you to monitor page time, bounce rate and referral sources? All of these metrics are critical to improving the consumer experience.
  • Does your website feel warm and inviting? Theres a huge emotional component to shopping. Unless the customer feels comfortable, he or she wont stick around to buy. Test consumer responses to various formats before establishing the electronic face of your bank.

Security and reliability may be the technical foundation of a good site; however, the ultimate goal of a site is advancing corporate objectives by meeting visitor needs quickly and efficiently. Therefore, design should come only after listening carefully to consumers, mapping out typical journeys and translating it into the right look and feel. This is not a job you can delegate to your tech adviser.